Are you a college graduate, a millennial, a military veteran looking to transition back to civilian life, or a seasoned professional unsatisfied with your current employment situation? If so, then the “job” versus “career” question is one you should consider, because the differences between the two can be crucial to your overall satisfaction.
During your life, you’ll spend a lot of time at work. Make it count by choosing a career in which you can grow and about which you are passionate.
What’s the Difference, Anyway?
Essentially, a “job” is a series of tasks that a person commits to doing regularly in order to earn an agreed upon wage.
A “career”, on the other hand, is the pursuit of desired goals and achievements over a period of time. A career is composed of a series of consecutive jobs that involve progressive, growth-related moves.
In short, a job is simply about making a living, but a career is about making a life.
According to Gallup, people who focus on what they do best at work – i.e., their strengths – are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.
When companies are looking to recruit the best talent, they often ask questions designed to uncover whether or not you, as a job seeker, are serious about the prospective role – whether that role fits into your long-term career plans.
While you need to use the interview to convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the job, you also need to take some time during the job hunt to figure out whether or not that company would be a great fit for you and your longer-term career goals.
Therefore, it is essential for you to also ask the interviewer the right questions, such as: How would you describe your company culture? What is the future growth trajectory for the company? Does your company offer opportunities for professional development?
The answers to these questions can tell you whether or not the company is truly a good fit for you and your career.
7 Ways to Build a Great Career
By drawing upon my more than 18 years of talent management experience, I’ve crafted a list of seven important actions you can take to help you build and navigate a successful career.
1. Work Hard and Maintain a Positive Attitude
W. Clement Stone, the founder of Combined Insurance, said the No. 1 principle of success in life is having a “positive mental attitude,” or PMA. Employers want to hire individuals who are personable, confident, and in possession of a “can do” attitude, so it’s important to present yourself as a motivated person who is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.
Once you land the job– even if it’s an entry-level role – you should always do your best. When possible, go even further by volunteering for additional responsibilities. Being that “Yes, I can” employee who’s eager to learn and strives for excellence will help you build a strong reputation. In turn, that reputation will help you climb the career ladder to positions of greater responsibility – and higher income.
2. Be a Utility Player
Given today’s dynamic business landscape and rapid pace of technological evolution, companies require employees who are adaptable and flexible with broad capabilities. Be someone who can fit into various roles as business requirements change, and you will be a person in whom the company will invest.
Show that you are a “utility player” – an individual who can play in more than one position. Problem-solving skills, accountability, adaptability, and initiative are core competencies that will help you succeed in multiple roles at various levels.
3. Always Aim Higher
To keep your confidence and skills growing, the key is to not become complacent. Lifelong learning is not only important for your career, but also a satisfying way to live. Start off any new position by taking advantage of any training and mentoring opportunities your employer may offer.
This can be done on the job by taking on “stretch” assignments and staying current with industry trends and events, or on your own by taking educational and training courses offered by local colleges or professional associations. Stay up-to-date by reading industry publications, online articles, and relevant business books. The more you know and the more you demonstrate what you can do, the more likely it is that you will be the candidate of choice when a good career opportunity presents itself.
You should always be genuinely open to feedback, too. Feedback is a gift and an opportunity for improving yourself.
4. Build a Professional Network and a Strong Personal Brand
Every job offers opportunities to expand your professional network. Everyone you meet during your time in a given role – from your bosses and coworkers to clients, suppliers, and peers at other organizations – has the potential to become a valuable contact.
Forging and maintaining relationships at work and within your professional universe can help you further your career and may lead to new and unforeseen opportunities in the future. So, be sure to chat and connect with other professionals whenever you have the opportunity, whether on LinkedIn or at industry functions.
Remember that the brand which most deserves your attention is your own. Be clear on your personal brand. Ask yourself: What do people say about me and my work? What do I want them to say? What do I want to be known for?
A great reputation can help you land your next big career opportunity.
5. Choose a Prospective Employer Wisely
Whether you work for one employer or many over the course of your career, it’s important to select employers that share your view of building a career rather than a job. Look for companies offering career development tracks, which should include training, mentoring, and clear upward paths in the company.
As you decide on which company and position to choose, ask yourself these questions: Does the role fit my current/future skills? Does the manager I’ll report to fit well with my leadership-style preferences? Does the company culture align with my core values?
For example, my company offers comprehensive initial and ongoing training and development for sales agents, as well as for those who opt to pursue administrative, corporate, or management positions. As a result, many of our corporate employees, sales agents, and managers have built solid careers with us, and these careers have contributed to their own professional and financial success, as well as the success of our company.
6. Company Culture Matters
To advance your career, you need to look for companies that strive for true meritocracy – companies where employees’ performances and contributions determine their success, recognition, rewards, and career opportunities.
A meritocracy is a simple and effective motivational formula: The better you perform, the more you will be rewarded. Look for companies that promote people based on performance excellence. When what you do matters and hard work pays off, you’ll be more motivated and satisfied at work.
7. Set Achievable Goals and Measure Your Progress
Building a fulfilling and sustainable career is an ongoing process that requires motivation, a plan of action, flexibility, and discipline. It’s important to assess your career goals periodically, because people and circumstances change.
As you measure your progress, don’t be afraid to alter some goals or set new ones, depending on the new situations that may arise for you. The important thing is to keep moving ahead. Look for opportunities to improve and be strategic and intentional about the career moves you make.
When it comes to your career, you need to stay engaged and adopt a mindset that is focused on continuous improvement.
Building a career rather than just doing a job will create a greater feeling of personal fulfillment. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, however. Sometimes, in order to build a career, you may have to turn down a higher-paying job in favor of one that offers more career potential.
It can be a hard decision to make, but the sacrifice will be well worth it.
The choice is yours – your career awaits!